E-Learning

A really useful blog post by Class Teaching on E-Learning and why its worth it – some handy tips if you are engaged in this:

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What happens when a teacher uses technology in a lesson?

The responses were varied:

  • Students are entertained but are not always learning effectively.
  • It depends on how effectively it is used?
  • It can enhance learning as it gives them extra support.

All of which are perfectly valid.  The key thing to ask is ‘what knowledge & skills do I want the students to learn?’  Followed by ‘how might technology help them with this?’   Unfortunately it’s often done the other way round, with technology being used for the sake of it – if it’s not going to be useful, don’t use it!

Questions that are often raised about using technology in school

  • How do we know they are not being distracted when using their smart phones etc?
  • How do we know they are not viewing inappropriate content?
  • How can we eliminate competition in terms of ‘who’s got the best phone?’
  • How can we guard against inappropriate use of social networks?
  • It’s just ‘quick learning’ and so doesn’t support the struggle and grit required for learning.

The reality of this is that our concerns are probably over-amplified.  Smart-phone technology is a very normal part of their lives now and to be honest, if we can trust students to comply with our expectations in other aspects of school e.g. behaviour, focus during lessons etc, we should probably trust them to use their phones appropriately.  Expect them to use it appropriately – and then deal with those who don’t.

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So, what can technology do?

  • Support literacy development – students writing blogs, is a great way for them to improve their writing skills.  Having a worldwide audience is a great incentive to produce high quality written work.  David Mitchell has done some fantastic work in this area, with quadblogging:
  • Enhance language acquisition – students can get access to high level reports, articles and websites on a range of topics and so give them access to high challenge, academic language.
  • Support high quality explanations – animations, video clips, historical documents and photos can allow us to bring explanations to life and make the abstract seem concrete.  For example, students are unlikely to ever see a volcano erupting in real life, but they can via you tube.
  • Access to information – this is fairly obvious. Students can access a wealth of information to support their learning.  It also allows you to share information with them – in a range of formats.
  • Supports learning – students can access past papers and a whole range of other tutorials and questions, that will allow them to practise what they have been doing in school.  They can also use technology at home to preview what they will be doing in the next lesson.
  • Enhances self-esteem – for those students who struggle with handwriting, using technology to prepare their work is an advantage.
  • Adds breadth – it allows students to find out more about the topics they are studying and follow their interests – takes the lid off their learning!

Pete had asked students about some of the uses of technology that they really don’t like doing in lessons.  They were:

  • Making posters on word or publisher – a very low demand activity.
  • Making powerpoints – again, low demand.
  • MyMaths – limited feedback and challenge.
  • ‘Do’ research – far too general.  The internet is a big place and hard to know what is reliable.
  • Typing answers to questions in word – low demand and pointless!

Some useful examples

The following is a list of useful resources that can be used to support the purposeful use of e-learning.

  • Edmodo – an online platform (like facebook) that allows teachers to set tasks and interact with students.
  • Use GoogleDocs to share documents with students.
  • Padlet is a great way of sharing resources with students.  Here’s how.
  • Drop box – useful for sharing documents.
  • EduBlog – set up blogs for your classes.
  • Socrative – make interactive quizzes and get feedback from students.
  • You tube – find videos on mostly everything!
  • Twitter – Set up a twitter account for your subject to support your students.  Here are some examples of how.
  • Prezi – a great presentation tool.
  • QR Codes – great video here of how to use these.
  • Podcasts – create podcasts for your students to listen to at any time.  Here’s how.
  • Create a wiki for your class e.g. all students can contribute to a revision page on a certain topic.

The use of technology is there as a tool for teachers, it should never be seen as a replacement for teachers.  It is there to support learning – it won’t make learning happen on it’s own.  The key is to think about how technology can support what you are doing with students, not determine what you do.

For further information, on purposeful e-learning, take a look at Mark Anderson’s site Education Evangelist.  The following graphic from Mark is a great summary of what purposeful e-learning is about:

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